Whistler Mountain Ski Club member Stefanie Fleckenstein acknowledged she wasn't expecting to start the season quite as well as she did.
The 17-year-old from West Vancouver hit the Top 10 in her first-ever Nor-Am Cup race at Panorama Mountain Resort on Dec. 13. Competing in the slalom, Fleckenstein finished 10th and notched a time of 1:33.97, placing her exactly four seconds behind winner Candace Crawford of Toronto.
The same group also competed in the slalom the next day, though Fleckenstein did not finish her first run.
Fleckenstein followed up her slalom performances with a 15th-place showing in the super-G on Dec. 15. Her time of 56.51 placed her 0.90 seconds off the pace set by winner Valerie Grenier of Mont-Tremblant, Que. Squamish's Mikayla Martin was 26th with a time of 57.13. In a second super-G on Dec. 16, Fleckenstein placed 17th with a time of 58.12 seconds, which was 1.39 seconds behind champ Mikaela Tommy of Wakefield, Que. Martin did not finish.
Fleckenstein said the strong early results have her altering her goals for the season, as she now feels she can make even more of an impact than she initially thought, noting she'll be aiming for regular Top 30, or even Top 15 finishes on a circuit with far more experienced competitors.
"It definitely helps my confidence," Fleckenstein said. "After the first Nor-Am (race), my goals have changed a little bit."
Fleckenstein also earned some hardware a week before her Nor-Am Cup showing.
At Mt. Norquay, Alta. on Dec. 6, Fleckenstein took the bronze in the slalom event with a 1:39.81, ending up 1.62 seconds behind winner Alexa Dlouhy of Montreal.
The next day, Fleckenstein improved her time by half a second, scoring a 1:39.31. However, that was good enough for fifth, 3.36 seconds behind winner Jocelyn McCarthy of Spruce Grove, Alta.
Fleckenstein explained she was stricken with mononucleosis in the summer of 2013, which inhibited the amount of training she accomplished in advance of her first FIS season. As a result, she struggled last year, but with a chance to work on her fitness this summer, jumped at the opportunity.
"There's not a lot of time during the season to work on fitness," she said.
WMSC's Rae Swette also competed in the same events in Panorama after starting the Nor-Am season with two downhill events on Dec. 10 and 11.